No one can accuse Michael Franti of armchair activism.
When U.S. and British troops invaded Iraq three years ago, lots of musicians spoke out with songs, letters and freshly peeled bumper stickers. But the lead singer of the Bay Area soul-funk group Spearhead handled the situation in his own typical way. He turned off CNN, grabbed a guitar and started pricing tickets to Baghdad.
"I knew I wasn't getting the whole truth on TV," he says. "I wanted to see with my own eyes what was going on there."
Although the members of his own band didn't expect anything less, they were too afraid to join him on the trip. Other musicians he called not only turned him down but tried to talk him out of going as well.
It didn't work. In May 2004, Franti rounded up three video cameras and a ragtag eight-person crew, and made the journey to Iraq via Jordan. After some mild confusion at the customs desk, he was welcomed into the country as a tourist.
"I didn't feel like a tourist at all," laughs Franti, 39, who spent most of his time in Baghdad busking in the streets and chatting with locals. But that didn't mean he wasn't curious. His main mission was to see how people made it through their daily lives -- without electricity or drinking water, and car bombs constantly going off around the corner. "It's so incredibly dangerous, I was interested in seeing how kids get to school, how adults get to their jobs," he says.
The above is from Aidin Vaziri's "Michael Franti got his guitar, then headed to Iraq. Any requests for anti-war music?" (San Francisco Chronicle). Saturday, September 9th (as the article notes), Franti and Spearhead stage the Power to Peaceful Festival (Golden Gate Park in San Francisco) from 11 am to 5 pm and this is a free event. More information can be found by clicking here. And the time is the listing in the San Francisco Guardian so if you're interested check the time (I thought there were events starting as early as nine am but I'm tired and may be remebering wrong).
If you're unfamiliar with Franti and Spearhead, Kat reviewed the latest album Monday ["Kat's Korner: Michael Franti & Spearhead Yell Music! (Are you listening?)"].
On the subject of the latest Osama tape, if you didn't check out Robert Parry's "The Bush-Bin Laden Symbiosis"** (Consortium News) in July, it's probably time to check it out now. These tapes have a tendency to surface as an election rolls around. Also on the issue of Osama and 9-11, Carl notes Danny Schechter's "911 Redux: Where is that decoder ring when we need it?" (MediaChannel.org):
Which brings us to 9/11 and its conflicting theories:
There have always been two often intersecting theories of history: the conspiracy theory referencing action by deliberate design, and then the "f*ck up theory" that implies incompetence and unintended consequences. Sometimes these two theories morph and merge.
Ironically, it was the Bush Administration that first rolled out its own conspiracy theory: the "Al-Qaeda did it" conclusion. It seemed so obvious. "They" conspired. "They" planned it. "They" hijacked the planes. "They" crashed them into buildings--except when they didn't.
And the media bought it and recycled this storyline endlessly in print, radio and TV, as part of a relentless scattershot chronicle of demonization filled with contradictions and omissions that at different times included the Saudis, the Pakistanis, the city of Dubai, Saddam Hussein and just about every Immam and Mullah out there. On September 11th an AMTRAK passenger train was stopped when a rider suspected that an Indian traveler with a turban was part of the Taliban. Others have been denied air passage because of their T-shirts.
It often seems as if the "terrorists" are everywhere and no where at the same time. It is us versus them.
(This rampant paranoia reminds me of the old joke about the cop about to arrest a communist during the bad old days of the Red Scare. The man protests that he is an "anti-communist." The cop responds, "I don't care what kind of communist you are.")
This is the official narrative repeated without pause, legitimated by the 9/11 Commission, signed, sealed and delivered. It is always offered up as 'just the facts, ma'am' "real story" by some self-styled "terrorism expert."
Yet, as South African writer Nadine Gordimer recognizes, "the facts are always less than what happened."
Other "facts" soon began dribbling out, unofficial facts to contradict the official ones. They added up to "Inconvenient Truths" as in the gospel according to Al Gore. And suddenly two new theories offered a widely believed "counter-narrative"--even as this one has yet to fully penetrate the mass media guardians of public order and understandings.
The first is the incompetence theory, the by now accepted reality of screw-ups without end that, when taken together, would in any other society lead to prosecutable crimes and misdemeanors. Surely a country which spent three years embroiled in the Clinton witch trial should be capable of going after a real abuse of power.
This shameful record will no longer stay buried as we learn of failures to act despite as many as 60 warnings, fatally flawed intelligence procedures, agencies not communicating or consciously deceiving each other and themselves, of billion dollar Air Defense Systems not defending the country, of a lack of emergency planning, and as in the case of the World Trade Center an absence of preparedness, police and fire radios that didn’t work, and "America's Mayor" more consumed with his image and "legacy" than it protecting the responders who were allowed and encouraged to work in conditions known to be dangerous without safety provisions.
All you will need are three sources to persuade you of the colossal "f*ck-up that was 9/11: two new books, Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower, and "Grand Illusion" by Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins exposing Rudy Giuliani's fraudulent heroism, and, now, the new Globalvision assisted documentary 911: Press for Truth on the 911 Commission cover-up and the pernicious role played by our media.
Beyond all this is the Bush Did It counter-conspiracy theories propounded in different form on a thousand books websites and films like "Loose Change" that claim to "connect the dots" by identifying the long and nefarious hand of government complicity--not just duplicity-- behind 911.
Some of those propounding these views sometime seem fanatical as if they are waging their own Jihad based on an almost fundamentalist certainty that they know what happened. Everyone has heard the claims of controlled demolitions and missiles used to stage a new Pearl Harbor. There may be truth here---but is it the only truth?
It seems clear that even if the government did not prepare 911, they were prepared to use it to political advantage and to have it economically benefit their many donors and "partners."
And Wally notes Liz Sly's "Coalition cedes control of some Iraqi forces amid call for U.S. deaths" (Chicago Tribune via Florida's Herald ):
A man purporting to be al-Qaida's new leader in Iraq made his first appearance on the Internet Thursday, with an audiotape in which he called on Iraq's Sunnis to unite and to each kill an American within the next 15 days.
The tape was posted as Iraq's prime minister assumed command and control of a small fraction of the Iraqi armed forces at a ceremony of largely symbolic importance for the country's efforts to gain independence from foreign forces and for U.S. hopes eventually to bring American troops home.
Yet a day touted as one of "gigantic" significance by the U.S. military was marred by a rash of bombings across Baghdad that left 17 people dead as police said they had found 34 handcuffed and tortured bodies dumped in the neighborhood of Dora. Three U.S. troops also were reported killed, two of them in Anbar province and one in the northern Iraq town of Hawija.
That a new security effort in Baghdad has not yet had a discernible impact on the level of violence was illustrated by a revised death toll for August, issued by Iraq's Health Ministry and quoted by The Associated Press. The new figure puts the August toll in Baghdad at 1,536, only slightly below the record of around 1,800 recorded in July.
Which brings us back to where we started. Sort of. It does bring us back to the lie of the death toll. Why the press trumpeted the numbers to being with isn't dealt with, is it? They knew the numbers were incomplete ("three out of five") and they knew the month wasn't over. So why did they run with it?
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[** C.I. Note: Correct link and title to Parry. Thanks to Eddie for catching it and correcting me.]